DISCIPLINE: The Way To Success Pt.14 & 153/19/00
2 Tim 2:20-22
20 In a wealthy home there are dishes made of gold and silver as well as some made from wood and clay. The expensive dishes are used for guests, and the cheap ones are used in the kitchen or to put garbage in.
21 If you stay away from sin you will be like one of these dishes made of purest gold-- the very best in the house-- so that Christ himself can use you for his highest purposes. 22 Run from anything that gives you the evil thoughts that young men often have, but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right. Have faith and love, and enjoy the companionship of those who love the Lord and have pure hearts.
23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
FOLLOWING JESUS INVOLVES CHOICE, DAILY DECISIONS TO LIVE IN FAITH, TO ACCEPT HIS LORDSHIP, AND TO REJECT THE PUSH AND PULL OF SIN AND SELF! LEARNING TO SAY, "NO!" IS AS IMPORTANT AS LEARNING TO SAY, "YES!" JUST AS WE SUBMIT OURSELVES TO THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST WITH AN UNQUALIFIED "YES!" SO WE ALSO MUST TEACH OURSELVES TO REJECT THE SEDUCTIONS OF SELF AND THE EVIL THAT IS SO MUCH A PART OF OUR FALLEN WORLD.
The bible teaches us...Titus 2:11-14
for the grace of god that brings salvation has appeared to all men. it teaches us to say "no" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great god and savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
THIS MORNING I WANT TO TALK ABOUT A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE THAT INVOLVES SAYING NO TO CERTAIN THINGS AT SPECIAL TIMES, SO THAT WE WILL BE ABLE TO SAY YES TO SERVING AND LOVING GOD. THE DISCIPLINE IS THAT OF FASTING AND FOR INTRODUCTION WE LOOK AT JESUS' OWN WORDS THAT ARE FOUND IN
MATTHEW 6: 16-18
16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
FASTING IS A STRANGE SUBJECT TO MOST OF US BECAUSE YOUR AVERAGE AMERICAN LIVES FOR FOOD. PERCENTAGE WISE WE ARE THE FATTEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. THIS WEEK I READ THAT ALMOST HALF OF AMERICAN ADULTS ARE AT LEAST 20 LBS OVER WEIGHT! I LOVE RICHARD FOSTER'S WIT, "IN A CULTURE WHERE THE LANDSCAPE IS DOTTED WITH SHRINES TO THE GOLDEN ARCHES AND AN ASSORTMENT OF PIZZA TEMPLES, FASTING SEEMS OUT OF PLACE, OUT OF STEP WITH THE TIMES." PROBABLY NO OTHER NATION HAS ENJOYED THE VARIETY AND RICHNESS OF FOOD THAT WE ARE PRIVILEGED TO CONSUME. ORDINARY AMERICANS EAT BETTER THAN ROYALTY ATE A CENTURY AGO! OUR SUPERMARKETS OVERFLOW WITH PRODUCE, FRUITS, MEATS, AND BAKED GOODS. MOST OF US ARE CONVINCED IF WE MISS A MEAL, WE ARE GOING TO STARVE TO DEATH! IN FACT, WE SAY THAT WE ARE STARVING WHEN THE FIRST LITTLE HUNGER PANG GOES OFF IN OUR BRAIN. OUR BELLIES AND APPETITES HAVE BECOME GODS WHICH WE SERVE WITH FERVOR.
THE FEW OF US WHO ARE FAMILIAR WITH FASTING PROBABLY HAVE ONE OF TWO IDEAS IN MIND. EITHER WE THINK OF ONE OF THE PURGING FASTS THAT ARE POPULAR WITH SOME HEALTH DIETS OR WE THINK OF CRAZED RELIGIOUS FANATICS WHOSE HOLLOW EYES REMIND US THAT THEY ARE WILLING TO TORTURE THEIR BODY FOR A FURTHER REVELATION OF GOD. NEITHER PICTURE HOLDS MUCH ATTRACTION FOR ME! I DON'T CARE TO ENGAGE IN A DIETARY PURGE THAT LEAVES MY BODY WRUNG OUT NOR DO I THINK THAT I CAN FORCE GOD TO SPEAK TO ME BY GOING ON A HUNGER STRIKE AGAINST HEAVEN. YET DESPITE MY OWN FEELINGS ABOUT HUNGER AND DEPRIVATION, I AM COMPELLED BY SCRIPTURE AND THE EXAMPLE OF GREAT CHRISTIANS TO CONSIDER THE DISCIPLINE OF FASTING. HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS I WANT TO ANSWER THIS MORNING.
1 "Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast; tell my people of their sins!
2 Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and are so delighted to hear the reading of my laws-- just as though they would obey them-- just as though they don't despise the commandments of their God! How anxious they are to worship correctly; oh, how they love the Temple services! 3 "'We have fasted before you,' they say. 'Why aren't you impressed? Why don't you see our sacrifices? Why don't you hear our prayers? We have done much penance, and you don't even notice it!' I'll tell you why! Because you are living in evil pleasure even while you are fasting, and you keep right on oppressing your workers. 4 Look, what good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. 5 Is this what I want-- this doing of penance and bowing like reeds in the wind, putting on sackcloth and covering yourselves with ashes? Is this what you call fasting? 6 "No, the kind of fast I want is that you stop oppressing those who work for you and treat them fairly and give them what they earn. 7 I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute. Clothe those who are cold, and don't hide from relatives who need your help. 8 "If you do these things, God will shed his own glorious light upon you. He will heal you; your godliness will lead you forward, goodness will be a shield before you, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. 9 Then, when you call, the Lord will answer. 'Yes, I am here,' he will quickly reply. All you need to do is to stop oppressing the weak and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors! 10 "Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too; and you will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Your sons will rebuild the long-deserted ruins of your cities, and you will be known as 'The People Who Rebuild Their Walls and Cities.' 13 "If you keep the Sabbath holy, not having your own fun and business on that day, but enjoying the Sabbath, speaking of it with delight as the Lord's holy day, and honoring the Lord in what you do, not following your own desires and pleasure nor talking idly--14 then the Lord will be your delight, and I will see to it that you ride high and get your full share of the blessings I promised to Jacob, your father." The Lord has spoken.
WHAT IS FASTING?
IN THE MOST BASIC BIBLICAL DEFINITION, FASTING IS ABSTAINING FROM FOOD FOR A SPIRITUAL PURPOSE. THERE ARE MANY LEVELS OF THIS KIND OF FASTING.
* A NORMAL FAST INVOLVES FOOD, BUT NOT WATER. JESUS ENGAGED HIMSELF IN SUCH A FAST AT THE BEGINNING OF HIS 3 YEARS OF PUBLIC MINISTRY. FOR 40 DAYS HE WITHDREW FROM CONTACT WITH OTHERS ONLY DRINKING WATER. OUR CRAVING FOR WATER IS GREATER THAN OUR DESIRE FOR FOOD SO THE DEVIL WOULD HAVE TEMPTED JESUS AT HIS WEAKEST POINT. HE DIDNíT SAY TURN THIS STONE INTO WATER BUT TURN THIS STONE INTO BREAD. JESUSí 40 DAY FAST WAS A NORMAL FAST CONSISTING OF
FOOD ONLY, NOT WATER.
*A PARTIAL FAST INVOLVES A LIMITATION IN DIET. MANY OF YOU WITH ROMAN CATHOLIC BACKGROUNDS ARE FAMILIAR WITH THIS KIND OF FAST. DURING CERTAIN SEASONS AND ON CERTAIN HOLY DAYS, CERTAIN FOODS ARE SET ASIDE. DANIEL AND HIS THREE FRIENDS ENGAGED IN A PARTIAL FAST WHEN OFFERED THE FOOD OF THE BABYLONIAN KING. THEY ASKED ONLY TO BE GIVEN VEGETABLES AND WATER FOR A PERIOD OF 10 DAYS.
A PARTIAL FAST COULD BE SKIPPING ONE MEAL A DAY OR JUST DRINKING DIFFERENT KINDS OF JUICE. IF YOU ARE WORKING I SUGGEST THAT YOU GO ON A PARTIAL FAST SO THAT YOU CAN CONTINUE TO MAINTAIN A HIGH LEVEL OF EXCELLENCE.
* AN ABSOLUTE FAST IS THE MOST DRASTIC. FOR SHORT TIMES, A PERSON MAY CHOOSE NOT TO EAT OR DRINK AT ALL. USUALLY SUCH A DRASTIC FAST INVOLVES ONLY A DAY OR AT THE MOST 3 DAYS SINCE GOOD HEALTH CAN BE THREATENED BY NOT DRINKING FLUIDS FOR AN EXTENDED TIME. IN EZRA 10:6 WE READ THAT THIS GREAT LEADER "WITHDREW FROM BEFORE THE HOUSE OF GOD AND WENT TO THE ROOM OF JEHOHANAN SON OF ELIASHIB. WHILE HE WAS THERE, HE ATE NO FOOD AND DRANK NO WATER, BECAUSE HE CONTINUED TO MOURN OVER THE UNFAITHFULNESS OF THE EXILES." MOSES TOOK UP AN ABSOLUTE FAST AND SURVIVED SUPER-NATURALLY FOR 40 DAYS ON MT. SINAI DURING THE GIVING OF THE
LAW OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
IS FASTING ONLY ABOUT FOOD?
ACTUALLY, NO! FASTING INVOLVES ANY VOLUNTARY DENIAL OF ANY NORMAL APPETITE SO THAT PRAYER AND/OR THE PRESENCE OF GOD MAY BE SOUGHT INTENSELY AND WITHOUT DISTRACTION. FOR EXAMPLE, IN 1 CORINTHIANS 7 THE IDEA OF SETTING ASIDE SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH ONE'S SPOUSE COULD BE CONSIDERED A FAST. IMPLIED IS THAT THERE MAY BE TIMES WHEN A COUPLE AGREES TO NOT BE INTIMATE. AS A CAUTION, V.5 WARNS "DO NOT DEPRIVE EACH OTHER EXCEPT BY MUTUAL CONSENT AND FOR A TIME, SO THAT YOU MAY DEVOTE YOURSELVES TO PRAYER. THEN COME TOGETHER AGAIN SO THAT SATAN WILL NOT TEMPT YOU BECAUSE OF YOUR LACK OF SELF-CONTROL." (NIV)
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES WRITES: "FASTING, IF WE CONCEIVE OF IT TRULY, MUST NOT ONLY BE CONFINED TO THE MATTER OF FOOD AND DRINK. IT SHOULD INCLUDE ANYTHING THAT IS LEGITIMATE IN AND OF ITSELF FOR THE SAKE OF SOME SPECIAL SPIRITUAL PURPOSE... THERE ARE MANY BODILY NEEDS WHICH ARE RIGHT AND NORMAL WHICH SHOULD BE CONTROLLED. THAT IS FASTING."
I BELIEVE THAT WE MAY GIVE UP CERTAIN COMFORTS FOR A TIME, THAT WE MAY TAKE LESS SLEEP FOR A TIME, THAT WE MAY GIVE UP SEXUAL ACTIVITY, THAT WE MIGHT REFUSE CERTAIN RECREA-TIONAL PURSUITS, THAT WE MIGHT DECIDE NOT TO SPEND MONEY ON OURSELVES, ETC. ALL FOR THE PURPOSE OF SHARPENING OUR
IíM SURE SOME OF YOU LISTENING AT THIS MOMENT ARE NOT TOO RECEPTIVE ABOUT THIS CONCEPT OF FASTING. IN THIS SOCIETY WHICH PLACES SO MUCH EMPHASIS ON PERSONAL COMFORT, INDIVIDUAL HAPPINESS, AND SELF- INDULGENCE A MESSAGE ABOUT THE VALUE OF FASTING IN ITS VARIOUS FORMS MUST OVERCOME THIS STRONG RESISTANCE. THE FACT IS THAT FEW DISCIPLINES GO SO DEEPLY AGAINST SELF THAN THE DISCIPLINE OF FASTING. NO WONDER WE REACT AGAINST IT WITH SUCH VEHEMENCE. DONALD WHITNEY WRITES: "WE ARE AFRAID THAT FASTING WILL MAKE US SUFFER DREADFULLY AND GIVE US A GENERALLY NEGATIVE EXPERIENCE. FOR SOME CHRISTIANS, FASTING IS AS UNTHINKABLE AS SHAVING THEIR HEAD OR WALKING BAREFOOT ACROSS A FIRE PIT."
I ADD THAT MANY OF US ARE CONVINCED THAT FASTING IS ONE OF THOSE ODD, SUPERSTITIOUS PRACTICES FROM WHICH WE ARE FREED BY OUR MODERN ENLIGHTENMENT. BUT THATíS JUST NOT THE CASE. FASTING IS NOT A SUPERSTITION, NOR IS IT ONLY FOR CRAZED FANATICS OR WOOLY HAIRED PROPHETS. IT IS A BIBLICAL DIRECTIVE, A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE THAT HOLDS GREAT VALUE FOR
THOSE WILLING TO ENGAGE THEMSELVES IN IT.
14 Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
SETTING ASIDE THE NUMEROUS REFERENCES TO FASTING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, WE STILL FIND THAT JESUS FASTED. THOSE WHO WERE CONTEMPORARY WITH HIM FASTED AND PEOPLE IN THE FIRST GENERATION CHURCH FASTED. IN THE PASSAGE FROM MATTHEW THAT I READ AT THE OUTSET OF THIS MESSAGE, JESUS IMPLIES THAT FASTING IS A NORMAL PART OF THE EXPERIENCE OF THOSE WHO FOLLOW HIM. HE SAID, "WHEN YOU FAST...." HE EXPECTED THAT WE WOULD FAST. HE DID NOT COMMAND IT AS A PRACTICE LIKE BAPTISM, NOR DID HE MAKE IT A RITUAL LIKE COMMUNION, BUT HE ALLUDES TO THE FACT THAT WE WOULD DENY OUR BODILY APPETITES FROM TIME TO TIME SO THAT WE MIGHT SEEK GOD. IN MATTHEW 9:15 WE READ THIS: JESUS ANSWERED, "HOW CAN THE GUESTS OF THE BRIDEGROOM MOURN WHILE HE IS WITH THEM? THE TIME WILL COME WHEN THE BRIDEGROOM WILL BE TAKEN FROM THEM; THEN THEY WILL FAST." (NIV)
IT IS HARD TO EXCLUDE FASTING FROM ANY CONSIDERATION OF CHRISTIAN SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES IF YOU READ THE BIBLE SERIOUSLY AT ALL. SO THEN WE MUST ASK, WHAT IS ...
THE PURPOSE OF FASTING: LISTEN ONCE AGAIN TO MATTHEW
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your father, who is unseen; and your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
A COUPLE OF NEGATIVES...
FEW THINGS IMPRESS ME LIKE A FAST, ESPECIALLY A LONG ONE. I MET A FELLOW PASTOR AT A MEETING ONCE. HE LOOKED THIN AND DRAWN I ASKED HIM IF HE WAS SICK. HE SAID, "NO, I'M ON DAY 23 OF A 40 DAY FAST." MY REACTION? WOW! WHAT A MAN. WHAT A SACRIFICE. HOW IS HE DOING THAT?
IF YOU WANT TO REALLY IMPRESS OTHERS WITH YOUR SPIRIT-UALITY, GO ON AN EXTENDED FAST. WHEN YOU GET THAT HUNGRY STARE AND GAUNT FACE, EVERYBODY WILL ASK YOU WHAT'S UP AND YOU CAN REALLY WOW 'EM BY TELLING THEM THAT YOU ARE FASTING. AND HONESTLY SPEAKING, THAT IS WHY SOME FAST. THEY LIKE TO IMPRESS OTHERS WITH THEIR SPIRITUALITY, THERE SELF-CONTROL THAT EXTENDS TO THE DENIAL OF APPETITES.
B. FASTING IS NOT ABOUT FORCING GOD TO ACTION THROUGH A HUNGER STRIKE.
HAVE YOU SEEN THE FILM, GANDHI? THAT LEADER OF INDIA DISCOVERED THAT BY REFUSING NOURISHMENT HE COULD SWAY MILLIONS OF HIS FELLOW COUNTRYMEN AND EFFECT THE ABILITY OF THE BRITISH TO CONTROL INDIA. GANDHI USED FASTING TO MOVE PEOPLE BY ALLOWING HIS HEALTH TO BE JEOPARDIZED. IN MORE RECENT TIMES, WE HEAR OF VARIOUS LEADERS OF HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS ENGAGING IN HUNGER STRIKES IN ATTEMPTS TO FORCE CHANGE IN OFFICIAL POLICY BY ATTRACTING ATTENTION TO THE PROBLEMS.
SOME CHRISTIANS THINK OF FASTING AS A KIND OF HUNGER STRIKE. THEY BELIEVE THAT THEY CAN MANIPULATE GOD INTO ACTION BY REFUSING FOOD OR COMFORT. SUCH THINKING IS WRONG AND WITHOUT ANY BASIS IN SCRIPTURE. FASTING IS NOT ABOUT CHANGING GOD - EVEN IF THAT WERE POSSIBLE.
C. FASTING IS ABOUT REGAINING PERSPECTIVE ABOUT OUR TRUE CENTER AND RESOURCE.
IN ANY FAST, WE ARE REMINDING OURSELVES THAT WE ARE MORE THAN A BODY, THAT LIFE IS MORE THAN BREAD, AND THAT IT IS BY THE APPETITES AND CRAVINGS OF THE PHYSICAL BODY THAT WE ARE ALL TOO EASILY DISTRACTED FROM THOSE PURSUITS THAT HAVE ETERNAL REWARD. RICHARD FOSTER, IN CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE, SAYS: "FASTING IS FEASTING! FROM TIME TO TIME WE REFUSE THE FOOD OF AN EARTHLY TABLE IN ORDER TO SHARPEN OUR APPETITE FOR THE FOOD OF THE SPIRIT.
WE SEE THE DIFFERENT APPETITES SHOWN BY THE LORD. WHEN THE DISCIPLES BROUGHT FOOD TO JESUS, ASSUMING THAT HE WOULD STARVING, HE DECLARED JOHN 4:32-34 "I HAVE FOOD TO EAT THAT YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT." THEN HIS DISCIPLES SAID TO EACH OTHER, "COULD SOMEONE HAVE BROUGHT HIM FOOD?" "MY FOOD," SAID JESUS, "IS TO DO THE WILL OF HIM WHO SENT ME AND TO FINISH HIS WORK. (NIV) THIS WAS NOT A CLEVER META-PHOR, BUT A GENUINE REALITY. JESUS WAS BEING NOURISH-ED AND SUSTAINED BY THE POWER OF GOD. IN A GENUINE FAST, WE ARE NOT MISERABLE BECAUSE OUR FOCUS IS NOT ON OUR HUNGRY BELLY, BUT ON OUR FULL SPIRIT. LET ME ASK YOU A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS.
OBEDIENCE TO HIS COMMANDS THAT YOU FIND YOUR OTHER APPETITES LESSENING THEIR GRIP ON YOU?
A FAST IS ONE WAY OF SUBJECTING THE BODY TO THE SPIRIT, AS IS PROPER. IN 1 CORINTHIANS 9.27 PAUL DECLARES: "I BEAT MY BODY AND MAKE IT MY SLAVE." THIS, TOO, IS PART OF THE PURPOSE OF
LET ME MAKE A CAUTIONARY NOTE HERE... WE MUST GUARD AGAINST A RELATED HERESY, HOWEVER. THE NECESSITY OF THIS CAUTION WAS BROUGHT TO MY MIND AS I CONSIDERED THE STORY OF THE 39 HEAVEN'S GATE CULTISTS WHO COMMITED SUICIDE TO RELEASE THEMSELVES FROM THEIR "EARTHLY CONTAINERS." THE LEADER OF THAT GROUP, BECAUSE OF TREMENDOUS INNER CONFLICT OVER HIS SEXUALITY, AMONG OTHER THINGS, DECIDED THAT THE BODY WAS NOT IMPORTANT, EVEN A KIND OF EVIL.
AS CHRISTIANS WE ARE NOT TAUGHT TO HATE THE BODY NOR TO REGARD ITS APPETITES AS EVIL IN AND OF THEMSELVES. WHILE THE BIBLE TEACHES US TO BRING THE BODY AND ITS APPETITES INTO SUBJECTION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT, IT ALSO TEACHES US TO
CARE FOR OUR BODIES.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we read
"do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from god? you are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor god with your body.
OUR THEME PASSAGE FOR THIS SERIES WHILE EMPHASIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES ALSO REMINDS US THAT
"PHYSICAL TRAINING IS OF SOME VALUE!"
AN UNDUE FOCUS ON SELF DENIAL AND AN OVER-EMPHASIS ON CONTROLLING FOOD, DRINK, SEX, AND COMFORT LEADS TO A MISPLACED FOCUS THAT IS AS DEADLY TO GENUINE SPIRITUALITY AS SELF -INDULGENCE. SO AGAIN THE KEY HERE IS BALANCE!
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a new moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.... [20-23] Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "do not handle! do not taste! do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
THE MORE RULES A GROUP CREATES FOR ITSELF IN ATTEMPTS TO BECOME A HOLY PEOPLE, THE MORE FASCINATED THEY BECOME WITH KEEPING THE REGULATIONS. THIS IS THE PREMISE FOR RELIGION AND DOES NOT EMBRACE THE PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIANITY WHICH IS RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. FASTING MAY ENHANCE THAT BUT IT MUST NEVER TAKE ITS PLACE.
A STUDY OF THE WONDERFUL BOOK OF CHRISTIAN FREEDOM CALLED GALATIANS UNDERLINES THE IMPORTANCE OF NOT RELAPSING INTO RELIGION IN PLACE OF RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS. THAT CHURCH WHOSE PEOPLE HAD KNOWN THE JOY OF BEING FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BEGAN TO LAY RULES ON ONE ANOTHER. THEIR EMPHASIS ON KEEPING RULES OR LEGALISM EARNED THEM THIS STINGING CORRECTION:
You are all sons of god through faith in Christ Jesus, 4:8-11 formerly, when you did not know god, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 but now that you know God -- or rather are known by God -- how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 you are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. 5:4-6 you who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 but by faith we eagerly await through the spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6 forin Christ Jesus the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
WHEN YOU ENGAGE YOURSELF IN THE DISCIPLINE OF FASTING, DO NOT DO IT BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO PROVE SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR SPIRITUAL COMMITMENT TO ANYBODY ELSE. DO NOT DO IT BECAUSE SOME SPIRITUAL LEADER DEMANDS THAT YOU DO. DO NOT FAST BECAUSE YOU HOPE TO PROVE ANYTHING TO GOD OR TO FORCE HIM TO ACT. YOU SHOULD FAST, HOWEVER AS THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD DRAWS YOU TO THIS DISCIPLINE. SINCE YOUR DISCIPLINE IS BETWEEN YOU AND GOD FOR THE PURPOSE OF SHARPENING YOUR FOCUS AND PERSPECTIVE, DON'T ADVERTISE YOUR EFFORT. IF YOU DO, ALL YOU GET FOR YOUR DISCOMFORT IS THE ADMIRATION OF OTHERS. LET THIS DISCIPLINE BE AN OFFERING OF YOURSELF, YOUR COMFORT, and YOUR BODY TO THE LORD AS AN ACT OF WORSHIP.
ONE OF THE MAJOR EMPHASIS OF ANY SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE IS POSSESSING THE RIGHT MOTIVATION. THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE FOR FASTING. SO LET ME SUGGEST A FEW BIBLICAL MOTIVATIONS FOR FASTING.
1. FAST UNTO GOD AS AN ACT OF WORSHIP. ZECH.7:5 SAYS, WHEN YOU FASTÖ.DID YOU AT ALL FAST UNTO ME, EVEN TO ME? AND ACTS 13:2 SAYS, THEY MINISTERED TO THE LORD AND FASTED. SO OFTEN WE FAST BECAUSE OF SOME PERSONAL NEED. SO LET THIS BE YOUR PRIMARY MOTIVATION WHEN YOU FAST, DO IT UNTO THE LORD AS AN ACT OF WORSHIP.
2. ANOTHER POSITIVE MOTIVATION FOR FASTING IS FOR PERSONAL SANCTITY. FASTING IS A DIVINE CORRECTION TO THE PRIDE OF THE HUMAN HEART. IT IS A DISCIPLINE OF THE BODY WITH A TENDENCY TO HUMBLE THE SOUL. EZ.8:21 SAYS, I PROCLAIMED A FAST THERE, AT THE RIVER OF AHAVA, THAT WE MIGHT HUMBLE OURSELVES BEFORE GOD. FASTING IS A POSITIVE EXPRESSION THAT OFTEN ACCOMPANIES REPENTANCE. SO FASTING CAN HELP US IN PERSONAL SANCTITY.
3. ANOTHER POSITIVE MOTIVE FOR FASTING IS SO THAT IT CAN ENHANCE OUR PRAYERS OR TO BE HEARD ON HIGH. EZ.8:23 SAYS, SO WE FASTED AND SOUGHT GOD FOR THIS, AND HE LISTENED TO OUR PRAYER. SO FASTING IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO OUR PURSUIT OF GOD OR FOR INTENSELY SEEKING GOD. ANDREW MURRAY SAYS, FASTING HELPS TO EXPRESS, TO DEEPEN, TO CONFIRM THE RESOLUTION THAT WE ARE READY TO SACRIFICE ANYTHING, TO SACRIFICE OURSELVES TO ATTAIN WHAT WE SEEK FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. THE MAN WHO PRAYS WITH FASTING IS GIVING HEAVEN NOTICE THAT HE IS TRULY EARNEST, THAT HE WILL NOT LET UP OR TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER WITHOUT OBTAINING THE BLESSING OF GOD. NOW THIS IS NOT A HUNGER STRIKE ITS ONLY AN EXPRESSION OF BEING SERIOUS AND EARNEST ABOUT YOUR PURSUITS.
4. ANOTHER POSITIVE MOTIVATION FOR FASTING IS TO FREE THE CAPTIVES AND TO MINISTER DELIVERANCE TO THOSE THAT ARE BOUND.
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
WHENEVER GOD IS LEADING YOU TO MINISTER DELIVERANCE IT IS WISE TO PREPARE FOR IT BY FASTING. THIS WILL INTENSIFY YOUR SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT FOR HEARING FROM GOD AS WELL AS MAKING YOUR SPIRITUAL SENSES SHARPENED DISCERNING THE ENEMIES LIES. THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL THINGS ABOUT FASTING BECAUSE FOOD CAN BE ANOTHER DISTRACTION THE RESTRICT OUR ABILITY TO HEAR FROM GOD. WE ARE ALL FAMILIAR WITH THIS SAYING, THE WAY INTO A MANíS HEART IS THROUGH HIS BELLY. THE DEVIL MUST HAVE KNEW THIS BECAUSE THE FIRST SIN THAT ENTERED THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE WAS BASED ON THE FOOD OR FRUIT OF THE TREE IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN. THAT FOOD BROUGHT ABOUT A DISRUPTION IN MANíS RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. SO FASTING CAN ENHANCE YOUR ABILITY TO HEAR FROM GOD AND SHARPEN YOU SPIRITUAL SENSITIVITY DURING TIMES OF DELIVERANCE AND MINISTRY TO OTHERS.
NOW LET ME GIVE YOU SOME PRACTICAL WORDS ABOUT FASTING...
1. START SMALL. IF YOU'VE NEVER FASTED, STARTING OUT WITH A 10 DAY FAST IS ONLY FOLLY AND YOU WILL END IN FAILURE! BEGIN FASTING BY SETTING ASIDE ONE OR TWO MEALS, PREFERABLY NOT BREAKFAST. YOUR BODY IS ALL READY HUNGRY AFTER NOT TAKING IN FOOD FOR 10-12 HOURS. EAT A NOURISHING BREAKFAST, and THEN ENGAGE YOURSELF IN A FAST. DRINK LOTS OF WATER WHILE YOU FAST! DURING THE TIME THAT YOU WOULD BE EATING OR PREPARING FOOD, MEDITATE, PRAY, OR READ YOUR BIBLE.
2. IF YOU HAVE ANY HEALTH PROBLEMS, SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE BEFORE STARTING ANY EXTENDED FAST.
3. TRY PARTIAL FASTS, SUCH AS TAKING FRUIT AND/OR VEGETABLE JUICES DURING YOUR FASTS. THIS IS A GOOD WAY TO GOTHROUGH FASTS THAT EXTEND FOR MORE THAN 3 DAYS.
4. BREAK YOUR FAST GENTLY. USE FRUIT JUICE AND COOKED VEGETABLES FOR THE FIRST MEAL AND DO SO LIGHTLY. FOLLOW WITH LOW FAT MILK OR COTTAGE CHEESE OR YOGURT. AVOID GREASY AND OILY FOODS DURING THE FIRST MEALS AFTER A FAST.
FASTING CAN BRING SPIRITUAL BREAKTHROUGHS. GOD USES FASTING AS A MEANS OF ALLOWING US TO DISCOVER HIS GRACE AND WE SHOULD NOT NEGLECT THIS DISCIPLINE. EXPECT DIFFICULTY ESPECIALLY IN YOUR FIRST FASTS! WHEN WE DO A FAST FOR SPIRITUAL REASONS, WE ARE DECLARING A KIND OF WAR WHICH NEITHER OUR OLD SINFUL NATURE NOR SATAN ENJOYS. WHERE STRONGHOLDS OF EVIL EXIST, THEY WILL RESIST OUR EFFORTS TO BRING EVERY PART OF OUR LIFE UNDER THE LORD-
SHIP OF CHRIST.
ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH A LIFE CONTROLLING HABIT THAT YOU REALIZE IS DRAWING YOU AWAY FROM CHRIST? THEN FAST!